San Francisco

“Clairol Collection”

An exhibition indicative of the growing trend among large American corporations to form art collections and circulate them for public exhibition. In this collection the prints and drawings are from The Clairol Collection, with sculptures and paintings lent by various museums, art galleries or private collectors. Will Barnett, Ben Johnson and Lester Johnson have lent their own works. As with many collections, this one is limited by the tastes and aims of the patron, and is further confined by the theme: “Mother and Child.” It is circulated under the auspices of the American Federation of Arts, and just how much the Federation had to do with the selection or what choices they had is not stated in the catalog.

Apparently the Clairol people aimed for a wide range of interpretation, which they got. And for name artists of the 20th century. Which they also got. And they got variety of idiom. But they did not get enough psychological penetration of subject matter to present a vital show. It is pleasant, and safe—reflecting the calm, maluma placidity of Milton Avery’s rounded mother and babe (Madonna and Child) more than the defiant triumph with which Rufino Tamayo’s eternally primitive mother delivers her own child from the womb (Madre Feliz, 1949). Salvadore Dalí somewhat relieves the generally bovine mood of the show with the psychological involvement of his Madonna of Port Lligat and its configuration of planes and voids which hints of a mysterious presence.

Elizabeth M. Polley